October 13th, 2007
08:31 AM ET
11 years ago

Congressman Jefferson sat silently by in court

Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressman William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, appeared in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va. late Friday to watch federal prosecutors and his defense lawyers tangle over legal motions leading up to his scheduled bribery racketeering and money laundering trial.

Jefferson, who was indicted for allegedly taking bribes relating to business dealings in Africa, sat silently beside his lawyers as they tried to get some of the 16 counts against him thrown out.

"There can be no bribery if he was not engaged in official acts," argued his lawyer Amy Berman Jackson.

"The conduct may be reprehensible, it may be distasteful, it may violate House rules, but it does not violate a statute," Jackson argued. She said Congressmen use their influence to assist constituents all the time.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lytle argued accepting things of value in exchange for using their influence is what the bribery laws are all about.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis seemed unpersuaded by the defense arguments, but issued no rulings Thursday.

Ellis prompted chuckles throughout the courtroom when he gently admonished attorneys for both sides for referring to the $90,000 discovered in a freezer in an FBI raid on Jefferson's home as "cold, hard cash".

"We don't need to refer to cold and hard cash, the judge said.

Ellis said he would schedule additional pre-trial motions, but did not do so Friday.

As a smiling relaxed Congressman Jefferson left the courthouse he declined to speak to reporters or to indicate whether he intended to attend further such pre-trial sessions.

Jefferson's trial is scheduled to being on January 16 of next year.

- CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. steve Loudon, TN

    One more of Hillary's people, how about Alcee Hastings, the impeached judge (for bribery too), later elected Dem rep in La. Hastings is the head of Hillary's campaign staff in La....birds of a feather flock together...thieves all

    October 12, 2007 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  2. wanjiku,nyc,ny

    I see innocent eyes, I know you are innocent from day one when you were not supeonered

    October 12, 2007 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |

    guilty as sin! YOU BIG DUMMYCRAT!

    October 12, 2007 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  4. brenda, atl, ga

    We know you are innocent and I wouldn't be suprised. What took them so long? It is time to get cleared! But I hope not because of political reasons

    October 12, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  5. Terry, El Paso, TX

    This man is certainly entitled to his day in court, and I want to discover that he is totally innocent. However, the facts that we have learned so far do not look good.

    A corrupt public official is a terrible thing. If a government official, say, likes to send provocative email to young boys or is addicted to crack cocaine, I would say that his personality if flawed and that he should retire to private life and psychotherapy. His weaknesses were out of his control. If a public official accepts bribes to perform his public duties at the order of his benefactor, then his action has a smell of treason to it. Our government – some part of it – was entrusted to him by all of use. He exchanged government influence for a fancier car, nicer suits, and a bigger house. His behavior was totally within his control. He could have simply learned to live with cheaper things.

    I recall a story from between naps in philosophy class, that some ancient Greek philosopher who was adviser to the king rode from the palace on his grand horse in his fine robes to see a poor philosopher who lived in a hut in the woods. The poor philosopher happened to be rinsing lintels for his supper. The King's philosopher said, "If you only learned to flatter the King, you would not have to eat lentils." To which the poor philosopher replied, "If only you learned to like lentils, you would not have to flatter the King."

    If I were a judge, I would reserve maximum sentences for corrupt public officials.

    October 12, 2007 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  6. jo

    $90,000...that's chump change to Hillary

    October 12, 2007 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  7. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    How refreshing would it be for an "obviously guilty" Member of Congress or the Executive to resign immediately and go away forever? Fat chance.

    October 12, 2007 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  8. Cable King Pittsburgh PA

    Sounds like Sir Jefferson should be put on ice (in the freezer) to keep him from skipping the country.

    October 12, 2007 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  9. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Can we say cold cash on the ticker?

    He is innocent, the money was planted by Karl Rove.

    October 12, 2007 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  10. ronnie - knoxville, tn.

    The lawyer actually admitted that Jefferson's conduct was reprehensible? There's something really twisted about that, but it's a free country. NO doubt tho that he's guilty, guilty, guilty – of SOMETHING> ....

    October 12, 2007 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  11. Paul, Philadelphia

    Democrats should be ashamed of themselves. They accuse Republicans of corruption, but really it is the Democrats who are corrupt.

    Name one Republican who is corrupt. I dare you. I double dare you.

    Democrats are corrupt, Republicans are good wholesome people.

    October 13, 2007 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  12. mike, coarsegold, ca

    This idiot belongs in prison. He is a total disgrace.

    October 13, 2007 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  13. Moe, NY

    I am a democrat and I say this man should be held accountable....we are, as Americans, trying to rid ourselves of the GOP corruption in this country and do not need Democrats taking their place. These politicans just don't get it...we as American citizens are not going to put up with this outrageous behavior any longer...regardless of what political affiliation. Word to the wise: YOU POLITICANS BEST CLEAN UP YOUR ACT....NO MORE FREE MONEY FOR SELLING OUT! Just do your jobs...as public servants...yes, that is exactly what you are...get over it! Perhaps if we get rid of the corporate American lobbyists in this country who bribe these weak politicans our country would actually benefit...food for thought!

    October 13, 2007 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  14. No Kingfish, Bennington, CT

    Jefferson should resign. Typical Louisiana politics, graft, corruption. Since Katrina, Mississippi has been a beehive of rebuilding, cooperation and forward progress while Louisiana sits by trying to figure out how to increase it's take.

    Face it, how many of us get caught with $90,000 in our freezer. This fellow is a disgrace and another reason why the Congress gets a 21% approval rating.

    October 13, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  15. laurinda,ny

    Who cares if he put money in his freezer. The Republicans lie, cheat and steal all the time. But, nobody goes after them!

    October 13, 2007 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. njambi,nyc, ny

    We now know how they put people in the badwagon. I remember the media following you and you kept your Kool. I admire you and I hope you are proved innocent!

    October 13, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  17. Tom Dedham, Mass

    Please nobody else respond to laurinda, lets just say she is right and move on.

    You are right laurinda, all Republicans are crooks and Democrats are all wonderful people who just want to help others by sacrificing their own time and money.

    Big fuzzy hugs.

    October 13, 2007 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. Jack NY

    Look, nothing is going to happen to this guy. He's a Democrat. They are sinless, pure, models of propriety. It's all a big misunderstanding, doncha see? Probably that nasty vast right wing conspiracy is behind all this.

    October 13, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. Paul, San Antonio, TX

    "Democrats should be ashamed of themselves. They accuse Republicans of corruption, but really it is the Democrats who are corrupt.

    Name one Republican who is corrupt. I dare you. I double dare you.

    Democrats are corrupt, Republicans are good wholesome people.

    Posted By Paul, Philadelphia : October 13, 2007 12:24 am"

    Wow... just, wow. You make me ashamed to share the same NAME with you.

    Republicans are good.. wholesome... I can't even finish that statement... I'm laughing too hard.

    So I assume you believe Mr. Craig sits on a toilet seat like a yokozuna and picks up scraps of invisible toilet paper in public bathrooms by reaching all the way across his body with his opposite hand?

    Or how about Mr. "Fire 'em All, just don't tell me about it" Gonzales, our recently not-so-dearly departed AG?

    Oh wait, there's always VP Dick "Halliburton" Cheyney. We can't go too hard on ole Dick though, he DID do something good.. he shot a lawyer.

    How many more "good, wholesome" Republicans would you like to hear about?

    October 13, 2007 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. Keith, Greenville, SC

    To Paul in Philly;

    Off the top of my head, without giving it any thought at all, I come up with Duke Cunningham and Ted Stevens. If you want me to actually stop and think about it, I'm sure I can come up with plenty more.

    October 13, 2007 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. Mac, Severn, Md

    That cold cash in the freezer sure is odd 🙂

    The US Congress needs to get serious about cleaning up its act. Jefferson isn't the only one on the take. Murtha of Pennsylvania and Reid of Nevada are two that need to be investigated. I can only guess, but I bet a good percentage of our elected officials have taken favors, money, etc., for their votes. They have no scruples. It should be no surprise that they are held in very low esteem.

    October 13, 2007 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. Scott, Greenville, NC

    This guy's a crook, his lawyer admitted as much. Put him in jail and be done with it...however, I doubt he'll get a Presidential pardon like another dirtbag we all know.

    October 13, 2007 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  23. Mike, Cleveland, Ohio

    Paul, Philadelphia:

    Jefferson, is most likely guilty but Republicans are not without questionable offenses either, see below for some of the many "Good wholesome people"

    1.Congressman Mark Foley's abuse of teen-age Congressional pages.
    2.Bob Packwood, Senator (R-Ore.), resigned in 1995 under a threat of public senate hearings related to 10 female ex-staffers accusing him of sexual harassment.
    3.Larry Craig (R-Idaho) was arrested for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a public bathroom in Aug. 2007
    4.Tom DeLay -The corruption of House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, and his gang of "40 thieves" is so extensive that it takes whole web sites to cover, such as: http://www.dropthehammer.org/corruption/

    5.Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana) was about to replace Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House until he resigned in disgrace when it was revealed that he admitted to having been involved in several adulterous affairs.

    Would anybody like to see more?

    October 13, 2007 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. Ryan Indianapolis

    Lets hear DEMOCRATS,,,you hypocrits,,,THis man is a thief and is a corrupt loser...But I havent heard one person in the senate or house that is a democrat that is calling for him to resign..Clean up your own house then you can come after the republicans...

    October 13, 2007 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  25. Daniel, NY

    Jefferson is lucky to sit on such a Democratic seat, for even with all of this his seat does not make the detailed list of vulnerable House seats.

    October 13, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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